Chicago Theatre Review
“The Light in the Piazza” Casts a Beautiful Glow.
By Lazlo Collins
It is the lovely story of girl meets boy with an operatic, Italian twist. “The Light in the Piazza” delivers the story and more, at Theo Ubique (say thee-ah oo-bah-kway) Cabaret Theater. This version of the recent theater classic, are sung in all its lyric richness by a talented cast.
I saw “The Light in the Piazza” in its pre-Broadway run at the Goodman Theater. I enjoyed the show then, and loved it even more at The Theo Ubique.
Known for their pared down versions of original large scale musicals, Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre makes this “Piazza” story come to life with all the vibrancy of an Italian street celebration. Although this more operatic show may not be for everyone, its music is immediate and satisfying.
Leading off the show we come upon the mother Margaret Johnson (Kelli Harrington) with her daughter Clara (Rachel Kippel). They are abroad in Florence, Italy taking the cities sights and sounds by storm. In a moment of sweet theater cheesiness, the handsome young Italian Fabrizio Naccarelli (Justin Adair) catches Clara’s hat in the breeze. They lock eyes and are in love.
The story of courtship and young love continues, and in the process we meet the Naccarelli’s. Mother and father (Denise Tamburrino and Michael Kingston), brother (Pavi Proczko) and his wife (Elizabeth Lanza) move this musical along with robust Italian songs and a hardy dose of comedy.
But as we find out, something about Clara is not all together right. After a childhood accident, Clara remains a child trapped in a woman’s body. She is innocent and misguided, which ultimately brings her mother to her own reflections of guilt, and the misguided love she endures herself.
This journey leads all the characters to the exciting climax of love’s perpetual contemplation, whether in Italy or where ever your journey may take you.
As mother Margaret Johnson, Ms. Harrington captures the reluctant “woman in charge” with sweetness and perfect timing. Her contemplations to the audience are tragic and funny. Ms. Kippel, as daughter Clara, takes us through a remarkable journey of love and confusion. She made me root for her until the very end.
The family Italia is also talented and well represented. As Signora, Ms. Tamburrino, is authentic and pleasant to watch; along with her son Guiseppi, who gave the story it’s more comedic moments. As Guiseppi’s wife, Ms. Lanza is stunning and brings the necessary bravado to her role of woman scorned.
Rounding out the family photo, Mr. Kingston, as the father, was so poignant and tender; a pillar of strength and cornerstone of the family. Mr. Adair who plays the love struck Fabrizio is earnest and sweet in his passionate pursuit of the American girl.
All the cast members in “Piazza” were remarkable singers with beautiful voices. Each performer had their moment to cast their spell on the audience. With difficult music and sometimes little traditional piano accompaniment, each song was executed with passionate resonance. Some of my favorite musical selections were “The Joy You Feel”, “Dividing Day”, and “Let’s Walk”. My least favorite was the weird pop duet “Say it Somehow”, the execution was good, but with a song that didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the shows music plan.
The rest of the great cast is the stoic Clay Sanderson; and William Aaron and Christin Boulette.
With clear and thoughtful direction by Fred Anzevino and Brenda Didier, “The Light in the Piazza” is a treat to watch and listen to. The set (Adam Veness) is amazing, especially considering the space. And I must say that the lighting for this show was SUPERB. It was thoughtful and transformed the play spaces to other times of day, and other spaces within the piazza. At times it was like watching an old movie.
Huzzahs to Jeremy Ramey for great coaching and musical direction that sounded simply beautiful!
“The Light in the Piazza” shines at Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre through 29 April 2012.